I have a confession I really hate to admit – I was one of the worst contributors who helped tear a massive hole in the ozone layer in the mid to late 1980s.
I was an 80s hair spray addict, as were most of my peers.
Being teenage girls in the 1980s, we loved our big cans of Aqua Net and Rave as we curled, crimped and teased our hair and pulled our bangs up to the crazy “mall-bang” trend teen pop artists like Debbie Gibson and Tiffany made popular. As a teen, I think we all used Aqua Net and Rave because they were cheap (and still are!) and readily available from any store.
Poufy hair with tons of highlights, perms and sky-high bangs, was the most popular hairstyle trends of the mid-to-late 1980s for women.
Around 1986, when the glam hair metal bands like Poison, Bon Jovi and Cinderella came screaming into the forefront of the music industry, some guys also found the joy of perms, highlights, and aerosol hair spray. I admit I was jealous – some of these guys had better hair than I did!
I wasn’t a mall-bang or head banging hair trend follower – I was a new wave punk rock chick, and my hair was the main canvas with which I expressed this individuality.
My sacred cans of Aqua Net, of which I would (sadly) spray through a bottle a week, along with my red and purple hues of Clairol Pazazz hair color, were the main ingredients to my awesome punk rock hair. I disposed of my trusty curling iron and styling mousse from junior high and replaced them with a crimper and styling gel – lots of styling gel.
Robert Smith of The Cure and Siouxsie Sioux were my very own musical 80s hair icons. The messier and spikier I could get my hair, the better!
My first punk rock hairstyle was styled longer on the left side and always worn crimped, with my bangs covering my face; the right side was cut a lot shorter, perfect for spiking.
It took me a while to get my styling routine and time down when I started grooming my punk rock hair. After a few weeks of styling, I had my routine down to a science and my hair reacted as if I trained it to stand up and spike on command
I would spray down the right side of my head until I felt drips on my shoulder, then I would take my vent brush and swipe up from my neck to the top of my head and voilà! – spiked hair. The crimping of my luscious locks took a bit longer but was well worth the effort. I proudly went through one and sometimes two cans of Aqua Net or Rave a week.
I wasn’t kidding when I said I was an 80s hair spray addict.
Not long after I started styling my hair in this new fashion, my mother had a fit. She wasn’t happy that I identified with being punk and wore my hair as such. I had to move the spiking part of my hair routine to my locker at school.
I was the only punk in my class, so naturally, I was labeled the freak. I completely embraced that role. People would watch in amazement as I spiked my hair at my locker. Within two minutes, my hair was spiked and ready to take on the day.
Going home after school was another story. My same trusty vent brush which helped me achieve new heights with my hair was then used to flatten my cool style. It was a snowstorm of hair spray flakes all over my black wardrobe. Thank goodness I almost always walked home from school and had time to clean up.
Months later, my school wouldn’t allow me to appear with our scholastic team on TV unless I looked normal. I had my hair colored a normal flat black and the cut was evened out. Sadly, my parents supported the school’s decision instead of my right to individuality.
Being a creative and industrious young punk rocker, I made use of my new 80s hair canvas. I opted for a Robert Smith look of an all-over messy spike, which I referred to as “Smithing” my hair.
I graduated from using Aqua Net and Rave shortly after I discovered Studio Line from L’Oréal (go on, sing the commercial, you know you remember it!), and my all-time favorite late 80s hair product line, Bold Hold. In addition to having an awesome non-aerosol hair spray called spritz (yay for no ozone damage!), Bold Hold had clarifying shampoo and intensive conditioner to help repair the damage punk rock did to my hair.
While I wasn’t destroying the ozone layer anymore with constant use of aerosol hair spray, I was damaging my hair with the perpetual crimping, spiking, spraying, and coloring.
I aspired to do the enviable punk rock liberty spikes some of the more hardcore punks wore – and I succeeded a few times with the help of Knox unflavored (clear) gelatin and Elmer’s Glue (what a mess!)
I also pined over sporting a mohawk. I have a thing for punk rock guys with mohawks to this day, but that’s an entirely different story.
I think back on all the abuse I put my hair through in the ’80s and I cringe. I still color my hair red, but these days it’s done with an organic brand of color with minimal damage done to my fragile middle-aged hair.
I miss “Smithing” my hair and recently entertained the thought of doing it one more time, for old times’ sake, as I stood in the hair aisle of Target staring at a bottle of Aqua Net, which read “50% more free!” I wondered if my hair would remember the style and obey my brush or if it would be its own style of punk rock and defy my styling commands.
To help protect what is left of the ozone layer and my thin, brittle (style damaged over the years) hair, I instead opted for a skull do-rag wrapped up and tied in my messy, wavy styled hair. That’s the new middle-aged punk rock style for me.
In honor and memory of my awesome 80s hair, I’ve assembled this playlist – complete with commercials! Have fun and buckle your seatbelts for a ride on the time warp express!
- Studio Line commercial
- Why Can’t I Be You? – The Cure
- Peek-a-Boo – Siouxsie & The Banshees
- Behind the Wheel – Depeche Mode
- True Faith – New Order
- Ask – The Smiths
- Wasteland – The Mission
- Delicious Demon – The Sugarcubes
- Watching The Detectives – Elvis Costello
- Windmere Crimper Commercial
- Holiday in Cambodia – The Dead Kennedys
- Institutionalized – Suicidal Tendencies
- Punk Rock Girl – The Dead Milkmen
- Garbage Man – The Cramps
- Love is the Slug – Fuzzbox
- She’s My Man – Sigue Sigue Sputnik
- Clairol Pazazz Commercial
- So Alive – Love and Rockets
- Smash It Up – The Damned
- One Step Beyond – Madness
- Over The Shoulder – Ministry
- Bold Hold Commercial
- Moya – Southern Death Cult
- The Cutter – Echo and The Bunnymen
- Happy When it Rains – Jesus and Mary Chain
- Birth, School, Work, Death – The Godfathers
- Mexican Radio – Wall of Voodoo
- My Heart Goes Bang – Dead or Alive
- Chains of Love – Erasure
- Eighties – Killing Joke